9 Tips to Boost Client Retention
How to Create Memorable Moments that Hook Your Clients, and How to Deal When Difficult Issues Come Up
As a Soloist, you have to make sure that you and the service you are providing stand out from the crowd. Beyond delivering quality or unique work, you can also differentiate yourself by providing out of this world customer service.
If you think back on your personal experience, you’ll probably notice that the service providers or businesses you use more than once or recommend to others are the ones that made you feel special. Research supports that idea by showing that clients will happily pay more and come back again and again if they experience exceptional service.
So, how do you create the kind of customer service that make clients stick around and tell all of their friends about you? Here’s the secret: while most services can be obtained anywhere, people go where they feel special and valued.
Whether you’re WOWing your clients or fixing something that’s gone wrong, it’s all about how you make people feel. Which is a good thing, because while marketing is expensive, delivering exceptional customer service is not.
Creating Memorable Moments That Hook Your Clients
It doesn’t matter what service you offer, whether you babysit, provide plumbing services, get people into shape, or mow lawns, your clients just want to be seen and valued. People hate to feel like a number. They want to be remembered. They want to feel significant and important.
You can honor that by showing people you value their time and their consideration.
- It all starts with great communication.
To put is simply, always say what you’re going to do and then do what you said you’d do. When you’re responsive and reliable, it builds trust, which in turn builds long lasting relationships.
By the same token, it’s critical to understand your client’s expectations and then to meet them. Always ask questions and reiterate the expectations as you understand them so that you’re clear about what you’re being asked to accomplish. And, please, stay in touch. Send regular status updates either via text or email. Keep your phone’s voicemail relevant or update your social media feeds to keep people in the loop. Nothing frustrates clients more than when their service providers vanish for no reason or are unreachable when needed.
2. Be the expert with whom everyone wants to talk.
Everyone knows a guy who knows everything about everything and won’t let anyone get a word in edgewise. Good news is you can establish yourself as an expert in your field without being that guy. Your clients expect you to be knowledgeable, but not arrogant; kind and helpful, without being obsequious; and excited and enthusiastic, but in a genuine, authentic way. When you dispense advice in a friendly and not overbearing way, people will enjoy coming to you with questions.
3. Always exceed expectations.
Two kinds of stories get shared by friends over a cup of coffee: stories about exceptional experiences and stories about atrocious experiences. You definitely want to be talked about because of the first.
When you understand what your clients expect of you, it not only enables you to deliver on those expectations, it allows you to go above and beyond. Don’t just come by to feed the cat, stay and play with him and then leave your clients a note and a little bag of kitty treats. Don’t simply cut someone’s hair, give them advice about how to style it and what products would work well for them. Don’t only show up on time for your babysitting gig, show up on time armed to the teeth with games and art activities. Hear Soloist Collective Insider Naqam Washington talk about attracting celebrity clientele by providing superior customer service.
4. Offer things your clients didn’t even know they needed.
Since you’re the expert in your field, you probably have insights that your clients wish they knew about. This is your moment to not only shine, but to upsell too. Whether you’re offering an extra product your client wasn’t aware existed, or leaving them with some invaluable information that will make their lives easier or more rich, you’re solidifying your status as the go-to specialist and person they’ll want to call on next time they’re in need.
5. Follow-up: Great service doesn’t end when they walk out the door
While you undoubtedly remember all of your clients, they might not always remember you. It’s up to you to remind them that you exist and that you’re standing by should they need your services.
The easiest way to stay connected with your clients after you’ve provided the service they hired you to do is to have them follow you on social media, but there are other ways to keep you top of mind without being overbearing. For instance, you could create a newsletter that goes out to your clients on a regular basis to share helpful tips or advice. You could sending a birthday card or a holiday card. Or you could even send a text every few months to check in and see how your clients are doing. Kick off the correspondence with a quick ‘Thank You’ email or text when the services have been completed and then just keep the communication going at whatever rate feels natural and non-invasive to you.
Whatever you decide to do when it comes to customer service, it’s important to remember that, most of the time, unhappy customers do not necessarily speak up to you. They simply don’t come back and they certainly don’t recommend you to their friends. These clients may even share their negative reviews of your services, reducing your ability to grow your business by word-of-mouth. So be sure to give your clients ample opportunity to give you feedback, be it good, bad, or ugly so you can fix things when needed. (You can learn how to solicit and understand client feedback in our article on Net Promoter Score for Soloists.)
What to Do When Difficult Issues Come Up
No matter how hard you try, sometimes things go wrong. The good news is that, even when the worst happens, all does not have to be lost. In fact, studies have shown that often when a situation is made ‘right,’ the relationship can be salvaged and the customer can be saved.
1. Start by avoiding issues when possible
Ideally, the goal is to not upset clients in the first place. In order to do that, it’s best to deliver on promises and expectations, represent yourself honestly, offer the kinds of deals or discounts that don’t leave people feeling cheated, do good clean work and tidy up after yourself, be upfront about any and all billing, and, of course, communicate in clear and concise ways so that everyone always feels like they are informed and up to speed.
2. Remember: It’s always about feeling heard
That said, should things still go south, whatever you do, remember that customer service is all about how you make people feel. The natural instinct when someone complains is to get defensive, but when dealing with a client that you hope to retain, you can’t let yourself go down that path. Instead, you want to put yourself in their shoes and do everything you can to fix the situation.
3. Face-Off Together Against The Issue
Most conflict situations are linear. It’s you, the problem, and the person facing off against you over the problem. Coming to a satisfactory solution that will make your client feel heard and important requires a slight mental shift, wherein you come stand next to the upset client and both of you tackle the problem as a team working towards the same goal.
4. Baby steps to resolution
Start by facing every problem with kindness, openness, and empathy. Even if you can’t come to an acceptable resolution, your client will still remember that you tried and worked with them instead of against them.
Then, open your heart and your ears and truly listen to what your client has to say. Ask questions to ensure that you are really hearing their description of the problem. Visualize yourself in your client’s shoes so that you stay empathetic rather than defensive. Sure, you know why you were late for an appointment, but maybe your client missed something important while waiting for you to arrive.
Once you have a good grasp of the situation, apologize authentically and genuinely. Don’t make excuses. Don’t place blame. Oftentimes, a simple but heartfelt apology is the only necessary solution. That said, other times, it takes more, which is when it’s a good time to let that partnership thing come into play. Instead of assuming that you know the perfect remedy, take a moment to ask the client what they would deem to be an acceptable solution. You might be surprised by the answer and by how easy it is to provide.
It almost goes without saying, but once you know how to fix a bad situation, you should follow through with the fix. And then follow-up a few days later to make sure that the client is finally happy with your service.
Keeping your clients happy and engaged might seem like a lot of work, but it’s always worth the effort in the end. Don’t forget, news of bad customer service reaches more than twice as many ears as praise for a good experience, unless it’s an exceptional experience. If you work hard to make your clients feel heard and valued, they’ll come back for more and tell their friends about you either by leaving raving reviews or by telling them in person!